Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 03-18-2014
  • Case #: 12-55305
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judges Schroeder, Tallman, and Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

Motions for sanctions under section 11(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure can't be granted if the district court had already decided the underlying dispute when the motion had been filed.

Islamic Shura Council of Southern California’s (“Shura Council”) served a motion for sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(c) against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) 25 days before it filed the motion with the district court. The district court granted the motion and the FBI appealed. The FBI argued for a reversal because the district court already “decided the merits of the underlying dispute” (adequacy of FBI’s compliance with a Freedom of Information Act request) when the Shura Council filed its motion on September 26, 2011.The Ninth Circuit looked at the policy behind Rule 11—deterrence of baseless filing in district courts and judicial economy—and the safe harbor provision that requires motions “for sanctions to be served on the offending party at least 21 days before the motion is filed with the court.” The provision also provides that “the motion may not be filed if the offending party timely “withdraw[s] or appropriately correct[s]” the challenged contention during the safe harbor period.” “Motions for Rule 11 attorney’s fees cannot be served after the district court has decided the merits of the underlying dispute giving rise to the questionable filing.” The panel acknowledged that the “Shura Council could not have moved for sanctions before the inadequacy of the FBI’s original response was made known to the court” but that “[n]evertheless, the motion for sanctions was made after judicial rejections of the offending contention.” Therefore, the panel held that the “motion for sanctions should not have been granted.” REVERSED and VACATED

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